Faye Swetlik, the 6-year-old whose disappearance launched a frantic, three-day search in her South Carolina neighborhood, was abducted and killed by asphyxiation, allegedly by a 30-year-old neighbor who subsequently was found dead, authorities said Tuesday.
Amid the massive search, the neighbor, Coty Taylor, was interviewed by authorities and let them search his home, Cayce Department of Public Safety Director Byron Snellgrove said at Tuesday's news conference.
The first grader was found dead in a wooded area on Thursday, three days after she vanished. She had last been seen playing outside her home in Cayce, South Carolina, which is just outside of Columbia.
At a Tuesday news conference, Lexington County coroner Margaret Fisher wept, expressing her condolences to the girl's family. She said that the girl's death was a homicide that took place within a few hours of her being abducted.
Just moments after the girl's body was found, Taylor was found dead at his nearby home, authorities said. Snellgrove said Tuesday that evidence leads authorities to believe Taylor abducted and killed Swetlik.
Taylor died by suicide, the coroner said.
During the massive search for Swetlik, authorities went door-to-door in the neighborhood. Taylor was interviewed on Wednesday afternoon, and he "was cooperative and gave consent" to look through his home, Snellgrove said.
"Those agents did not see anything that alerted them to believe that he had knowledge or was at any way involved in Faye’s disappearance," Snellgrove said.
Authorities believe the 6-year-old’s body was moved to the wooded area while it was dark, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Snellgrove said.
Authorities zeroed in on Taylor on Thursday morning when they were following sanitation trucks through Swetlik's neighborhood, said Snellgrove.
Thursday is the regular trash pickup day for the neighborhood, so as each can was emptied, investigators "methodically combed through" it, looking for clues, Snellgrove said.
At about 10 a.m. Thursday, as officers were scouring through one trash can, they found a child’s polka-dot boot and a soup ladle with freshly dug dirt inside, Snellgrove said.
Taylor appeared to have acted alone, Snellgrove said. DNA also linked Taylor and Swetlik, Snellgrove added.
The coroner confirmed Swetlik didn't die where her body was found and that her body had been in the wooded area for a short time.
A candlelight vigil for the 6-year-old will be held outside Cayce City Hall Tuesday evening.